How do you tell a prospective employer you're pregnant?
Q. I have a question about trying to find a new job now that I am pregnant. What is the best way to deal with my pregnancy during the job search, and when is the best time to bring my situation up with potential employers? I don't want to scare off someone who may want to hire me, knowing that I will only be available for a few months, and then out on maternity leave. I know that being pregnant doesn't make me a "protected" class from a legal standpoint. I also don't want to take a job and hide the pregnancy until after starting, if that will be seen as withholding key information. Any advice?
A. Job seeking while pregnant is about timing. Statistically, women do most often return to work after having a child - especially when there is a flexible return.
The timing issues start when the news becomes public. I'll assume you have waited the customary 12 weeks to tell people you are close to. There is no reason to discuss anything with an employer prior to passing this milestone. Also, consider delaying giving the news to your networking circle or potential references. Your goal is to minimize any limits people might put on your candidacy based on what they think might be "appropriate" for a pregnant woman. For example, there are people who might not let you know about a position that requires travel, assuming you wouldn't want to travel with a newborn. While that might be the case, you want to be in the position to determine whether the opportunity is right for you.
Mother Nature lets you keep the news private for some time, and during those months I would network and interview without disclosing your situation. Some employers might not agree with this advice. I can tell you that the disclosure of this news - legal or not - does affect how people view you as a candidate. As a good job seeker, you need to spend time with a potential employer so they can see what you have to offer and how you would fit into their culture before they are faced with any obstacles - which a maternity represents to some employers.
As you move into second and third interviews, and the second and third trimesters, you are right to feel the need to begin disclosing your situation, and a very strong statement about your plans to return to work. If this is not your first child, hiring managers need to know that you returned to work after your previous leaves. Potential employers need to hear about the plans you have for child care and backup care. They need to hear that you have sisters or close friends who have also gone back to work after having children and that you learned a great deal about how you will handle the situation from them.
Some employers will assume you have no idea how you will feel leaving your newborn, and they will be very hesitant about investing training dollars in what they view as a high-risk hire. Depending on how far along you are, you may be able to negotiate a project or temporary arrangement with them prior to having your child, with a formal start date following your leave.
I have seen some great hires of talented women while they were pregnant. The managers and organizations who took this "risk" were able to get exceptional employees with unbelievable loyalty.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston.